Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trying to Motivate Sixth Grade

Sixth grade gets some SERIOUS "senior-itis" by this time of the year. They're really too cool for school and getting them excited (particularly when you see them at the very end of the day like I do) is feels nearly impossible.  
I'd decided at the end of last year to do some silk screen printing with my sixth graders to make class t-shirts, and then so much came up that we're just now getting to it at the last two weeks of school (nothing like cutting it close). Due to traveling to another school at the end of the day, I only have two sections of sixth graders this year.  I ordered two ready-made silk screens through Nasco, along with a squeegee and four colors of fabric printing ink.  The photo emulsion I already had at home, mixed and ready to go in my refrigerator (doesn't everyone???).
Technology is not my forte, and when I tried getting them to use their chromebooks to make t-shirt designs on their own time, I didn't have much luck.  I sent out a cry for help to one of our tech people, and she came to the rescue by helping me "team teach" the computer/tech part (ie, she taught it, I wandered the room helping/kind of struggling along with my students).  She also set up a voting link through Schoology (that I might want to tweak before next time, because it seemed like they only voted along friend lines. . . ) but anyway, all that part is done, votes were tallied (I made some executive decisions when ties were discovered). 
Today will be our first day/class printing.  Students were expected to bring their own t-shirts from home, and to watch the videos I dropped into Schoology yesterday BEFORE they come to art.  Here's the test print video I made for them:

I am truly excited to share the joy of silk screen printing with my classes, and I hope they like it too.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sweet Little Flower Paintings

I wrote about this lesson three years ago, and it's pretty much a late April/early May "must do" lesson in my class.  They're just ADORABLE:

My kinders are great with scissors again this year, so we used our extra time to make some adorable cards.  We had a lengthy discussion about where to hide these glorious paintings to surprise our moms on Mother's Day (lots of talk of "my sister's closet" came up here).  My own daughter is in kindergarten this year, and I heard a bit of conversation with Mr. One Happy Art Teacher about where she was going to hide it when she got home.  Even though I saw all these paintings and cards in art, I'm betting I'll be teary come Sunday.  
Nothing better than children's thoughtful, heartfelt art!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

Oh, friends.  The end of the year is near, and we're all feeling the siren call of summer.  I've seen so many vents/worries/comments lately about an overall feeling of no respect for what we do.  Questions about "is it my age?" "Is this just the way it is?"  I'm not even going to pretend to have the answers, but I've been doing this for a while, in a couple of districts, in four or five (or more???) buildings and I sometimes feel the burn of does-anyone-value-what-I'm-doing-here along with [some of] the rest of you.  Especially when the higher-ups decide that art/music/PE will be starting at a early school and ending a late school and adults ask "Leaving so soon?" when you're rushing out of the building to get to the second (late) building.  I hear you.  I feel you.
But let's take a step back for a minute and realize that ALL teachers and ALL administrators that I know are BUSY, and it's hard to see the forest for the trees when we're all running as fast as we can.  You know what's helped me?  Conversation.  Dialogue. Calmly asking "why is this so?"  "Has anyone thought this through?" And then really listening to the reply.  
[Full disclosure, this next one is hard for me, and I usually need to think on it for a day or two before I can really do it.] Calmly, respectfully laying out the [very real] concerns about the issue (scheduling, supplies/lack of supplies, admin support, things like that) and then giving the other party/person time to think it over (overlook the initial reaction if they're not calm at the time). And take some (sometimes very small) comfort in the knowledge that you tried.  You did something other than just complain and lose sleep over it.
Here's the reality: you need a supportive spouse/parent/friend that you can cry to.  I mean really cry--tears streaming down your face at 11 pm over the disaster you know awaits you the next day.  You have to have that person.  I don't know how you'd survive if you didn't.  But they can't fix it for you.  You have to calmly bring it to someone's attention.  Someone who can [maybe] do something, or maybe just bring it up to the higher-ups. Don't expect someone else to realize your reality (they won't).  Really ask yourself "is this good for students?" and if it's not, something needs to change.
I agree that we're all "doing this for students" but you're important too.  You add value to your building.  Just by being you.
If you don't have your personal cheerleader/supportive spouse/friend, go find them.  Or email me.  I'm all about 'cha.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Last Kiln Firing Of The Year

It seems like every year I feel like the school year is going on and on and then suddenly TIME'S UP.  While I didn't wait until the very last minute to get all the clay projects done, (looking at you, 2016), I did feel a twinge of worry about getting it all done in time.  I've learned that my [older, but still working] kiln does much better (and fires faster) when it's FULL, so I filled it:

Top three shelves were second grade bells (simply a pinch pot, turned upside down with animal features added and two holes poked through to add a small sphere that you can see grouped in the middle).

Then there was one shelf of glaze-fired tiles from a Mayco workshop I attended at conference (and I told two others who live near me I'd fire theirs).  We used stencils and some different glazes--it's very similar to this lesson I found on the Mayco lesson plans site.  I am thinking of doing a parent/child fundraiser next year with something similar (and maybe if I write it here I'll actually remember to do it!)

We used some silk-screens and I missed part of my "L"

. . . but Heather didn't!

And then the bottom shelf was the sixth grade tiny painted houses (African tribe inspired):

They're even more luscious now!

I did have six (!) students who didn't want theirs, so I totally snagged them and have them displayed behind my desk because they're AWESOME and I LOVE THEM.
Second graders (of course) knew that their bells were amazing, and they did an equally amazing job painting them:

Action shot!

We use tempera block paint for it's fast drying time
and then add a layer of gloss medium for permanency and shine.

You can kind of see the cotton string here that I use to tie the bell part in.
I use cotton twine so they can paint it.
I prepare the bells (tie the little sphere in) before students arrive.

Whew!  I'm tired.  Good thing summer is only 16 school days away!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Some Things That Are Working (And A Few Things That Aren't)

Mid way through this school year, some clay issues popped up.  Art teachers is several buildings were having issues with clay projects cracking completely in two as they dried, the clay texture straight out of the bag was odd. . .Our clay supplier had switched clay suppliers, and an [almost] emergency professional development session was held to try and fix the clay issues.  In that PD session, the clay guru guy said "you should never be drying clay completely uncovered." Um, great, except my room is tiny??? And I see nearly 500 students in that room??? His suggestion was this movable/on wheels clay cart with fancy plastic sheeting.  Great, except soopa expensive! 
Here was my solution:

Ta DA! It's an old library cart, shelves covered with newspaper, with a plastic table cloth draped over.  Works perfectly.  And after all of that, it turned out that the clay teachers were having trouble with got frozen somewhere along the way.

Also working, keeping water ready to go for painting at one end of the sink at all times:

Love my square/nearly un-tippable cups!
"Cause ain't no one got time for filling water cups while passing out brushes and paint!

Suddenly NOT WORKING this year, my pencil sharpeners on yarn:

Note that four out of five are missing!
Ultra low-tech (as in none) and totally working, my reminder sign for my kiln:

Why, yes, that IS a kiln cage right there in the corner of my classroom!
Thanks so much for asking!
I use a dry erase marker and write the time I need to turn it up, because A) I have a manual kiln and B) I've been known to totally forget and run it on low fore many more hours than I need/want to.

Also working this year, new signage for the paper cutter:

I sat in a student chair before the year began this year to re-evaluate
signs I needed students to see.  This one was added.

This sign has always been ON the paper cutter but is a bit above kid-height.
Not working well this year:

Fifth grade Gustav Klimt project

It's SO HARD to scratch!  I really think it's because it's been in my cabinet for a while and it's along an un-insulated wall, so it's got hot/cold for several years.  Super frustrating!
Well, I'm sure there are more things working/not working around here (me, some days!) and I like to re-evaluate at this time of the year.  You know, AFTER the art show (moving it to early March is my favorite thing we ever did!) when I have a chance to think again.
Happy art teaching, friends, the end is in sight!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"I'm a Really Good Dancer."

Nothing like spending your day with kids.  Yesterday (or was it the day before?) I had kindergarten lined up in the hall for their teacher and the student at the end of the line was gettin' DOWN: spinning, hip-shaking, groovin'.  All silently.  He spun around and put his hand on his hip and said "You know, I'm a REALLY good dancer!"  It was amazing.  
It's all those little moments that make being an elementary art teacher the best thing.  And the projects that turn out so unexpectedly wonderful, like these tiny painted houses my sixth graders made:

They're TINY, like an inch or two.  I gave each student a tiny little amount of clay and just had them use their hands to flatten it out.  They then used some clay tools to cut a house shape and the Designer Liners underglaze for decoration. Students were also told to use a straw to cut a hole (or two) to hang their houses when finished.
 I had given each student a small (maybe 4 x 6) piece of pink tagboard with their name on it so I could just add their name after they left.  I love them all, and if any child doesn't want theirs I'm totally keeping it!

This student is originally from Iran,
and I love that she made double doors.
I bisque fired them and then decided they all needed a clear coat of glaze, so they're in the kiln ready for firing again.  I'll take a photo of them finished.
Happy spring, everyone!  Only six more weeks or so!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Maybe I Need To Change My Definitions????

While I was working on my signs for the art show, I sent an email to my staff asking for "old, yucky crayons."  Several staff members responded, and I'm STILL getting crayons from people (and I soooo appreciate it).  But, maybe my definition is vastly different?  Because I tell you, I got brand new crayons!  So many brand-spanking-new white crayons that I started pulling them out for crayon resists and things like that.  Maybe it's a different mindset when students/parents are supplying the crayons vs. buying them with your own budgets?  I have no idea, but I'll definitely be sending out a "I'll take any leftover art supplies" email to staff at the end of the year!
Why have I never realized this?

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